“ OTT is creating competition to traditional pay-TV operators .” - Simon Murray , Digital TV Research
new channels launched compared to free to air channels ,” he predicts .
However , Es-Hail is not quite so enthusiastic about Ultra-HD : “ Major broadcasters invested early and made the transition from SD to HD about two to three years ago . As such , new channels that will be launched by these broadcasters are likely to be in HD , and as mentioned earlier , these broadcasters are looking to launch new entertainment channels over the next 12 months . The smaller channel operators were slow to make the transition , primarily due to high investment needed for the transition . However , a number of them are considering a migration to HD channels for their content and we expect to see some of these channels making the jump to HD in 2017 ,” notes Al Kuwari
“ Ultra HD on the other hand will remain for the foreseeable future as event based service , such as beIN ’ s transmission of Euro 2016 . There is not enough content in native UHD for a linear channel , and for UHD to become mainstream , the entire ecosystem from production to transmission to reception needs to be ready . We believe this is at least
three to five years away from becoming a reality . For now , broadcasters will be focusing on the transition from SD to HD ,” he suggested . OTT . The MENA region ’ s telcos are certainly capitalising on Over-The-Top ( OTT ) transmission . Rotana TV Network is on record as believing that by 2022 free-to-air broadcasting will remain dominant , but with an increasing threat from OTT access . Rotana speaks for most broadcasters in the region in saying that 4K / UHD is very much in its infancy .
Sweden ’ s Voddler is a specialist in OTT supply , and now with a Dubai office is moving aggressively into the region . It will be making announcements at CABSAT for its VoddlerNet service technology , not least about its relationship with a growing number of Gulfbased operators .
Key to Voddler ’ s offering is its hybrid peer-assisted video delivery solution -to-peer connectivity software . Marwan Shehab is running the Dubai office , and says that the one thing it was keen to avoid was to add or to be seen to add a cost to the subscriber . “ So rather than it being a direct-to-operator or direct-tocarrier relationship , we have been working on technology being part of the carrier ’ s bundle and an all-in-one pricing plan , albeit with a premium tier . At the time the studios were reluctant to come aboard , but the concept was well received by our shareholders although
“ In Egypt and Jordan , the OSN introductory package is now between 19 to 48 per cent less expensive than the beIN Media equivalent .” - Constantinos Papavassilopoulos , IHS Markit at the same time , we were having discussions with technology providers . However , our story has moved on considerably . We believe we have a very special place in the potential market .”
VoddlerNet offers a DRM-agnostic video delivery solution . “ Our technology takes a simple unicast supply and , thanks to its peerto-peer availability , reduces costs , bandwidth and improves the quality of service . In essence , it means any consumer is taking that access to the video from a near neighbour and not from the primary source . This massively improves the quality of service and greatly enhances the efficiency of the overall operation ,” says Shehab . TARGETS . VoddlerNet ’ s announcements cover two major players and will mean services into Saudi Arabia , Abu Dhabi and potentially elsewhere . Shehab says : “ There are other obvious MENA targets , and we are discussions with most of the major names especially where there is no inherent system in place .”
He believes that in the OTT space in MENA today there are maybe ten or so OTT providers and perhaps a few more in Africa . “ Aggregate all of them and I ’ d doubt whether they amount to more than a half-million subscribers . Pay- TV has a pay structure taking a monthly sub to $ 70 , $ 80 , $ 90 or so , but the OTT suppliers being around 90 per cent cheaper , say at $ 8 or so , still have little traction despite the Netflix ’ s and Amazon ’ s making their own high-quality programming .”
In other words , as with everything in broadcasting , there ’ s everything to play for . The market might be considered ‘ mature ’ in terms of free-to-air broadcasting , but pay-TV still has plenty of headroom , and the likes of beIN have shown that competition drives the market . Every satellite operator in the region is planning expansion , and those plans reflect an overall optimism in the market .